THE BODY POLITIC|
May 1982, No. 83
Mandatory VD testing droppedTORONTO -- The-local Board of Heath - has officially "canned" the court programme that led to 20 men, charged as "keepers" in last year's bath raids, being ordered to undergo VD testing.
The VD Review Committee, in a recent report to the board, recommended that the programme be terminated on the grounds that its social benefits did not justify the threat to individual liberties.
The issue of mandatory VD testing was called into question after Dr William Frank of the Department of Public Health VD Control Section was quoted in the media on February 12, 1981, stating that the men charged as "keepers" would be required to undergo testing. This action prompted a letter from two Toronto physicians, Randall Coates and Stephen
Atkinson, to the Board of Health criticizing the programme and questioning the motive in maintaining it. "We are hard pressed to view these issuances as measures of VD prevention. Rather, they appear to us as additional indications of harassment of the gay minority under the guise of an archaic legal mandate," wrote Coates and Atkinson.
The rationale for the court programme, which routinely ordered those charged with certain sexual offences to undergo VD testing, was that these individuals ran a greater risk of being infected. Although the VD Review Committee found this to be true of prostitutes, they found no sound epidemiological evidence to justify mandatory screening of "keepers of steambaths."
The report also emphasized that confidentiality was being breached by the court programme, since it was public knowledge that people charged with certain sexual offences would be requiredto undergo VD testing. The VD Prevention Act guarantees that all information relating to individuals tested would remain strictly confidential.
In a similar incident in Montreal in October 1977, 144 men charged as found-ins after a police raid on the Truxx bar were forced to undergo medical examinations for VD, and then ordered to submit to further tests as one of the bail requirements pending trial. After a long battle, the Quebec Court of Appeal decided in August 1979 that the municipal court had exceeded its jurisdiction in ordering these subsequent tests. The legality of the first test, however, since the Public Health Act regulation allows them, was upheld.
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